If you’re a regular reader of The Health Sessions, you might have noticed that I love ideas on how you can make it easier to put healthy and comforting meals on the table when you struggle with limited energy and mobility. From using a slow cooker and putting sheet pan dinners in the oven to prepping freezer meals for sick days, there are several ways you can save energy while cooking.
However, many of my go-to strategies that require less effort often do require a long time in the oven/crockpot, or some planning ahead and meal prepping in return. But sometimes, after a long and tiring day, you just want a bowl of food now, and not wait another 30 or 45 minutes before dinner’s ready.
What can you do to quickly whip up a meal that’s still healthy and satisfying? Something that ideally doesn’t require a massive amount of chopping or cleaning up afterwards?
First of all, when available and affordable, buying pre-cut vegetables, sliced proteins or fresh pasta helps to speed up the cooking process. You don’t have to splurge on these foods for every dinner, you can save this luxury for those occasions when you know you’ll be too tired for much cooking – like after a long day in the hospital for example.
The right equipment will also make it easier to whip up a quick meal. A wok enables you to prep a stir-fry in no time, while a large skillet comes in handy for one-pot dinners that’ll save you a load of dishwashing.
And finally, remember you don’t have to pack all the superfoods, nutrients and toppings into one dinner. It’s ok if some nights you have a very simple meal, and your bowl doesn’t look Pinterest-worthy.
With that in mind, here are 18 healthy and quick dinner ideas for tiring days.
Stir-frying is everyone’s go-to quick dinner strategy for a reason. It’s easy, healthy and fast – thanks to the hight temperatures of the wok, you can often make a stir-fry in less than 15 minutes. Having pre-cut vegetables, sliced meat or leftovers from the day before saves you a lot of time and energy. Also choose ingredients that require little cooking time, like mushrooms, bell peppers, broccoli, strips of chicken and beef, and noodles of course.
You can wok any combination of (plant-based) protein, vegetables and carbs, plus an easy spice mix or sauce, but here are some healthy and quick stir-fry recipes for more inspiration:
Spicy Tahini Tofu Stir Fry from Eat Well 101
One Skillet Cashew Chicken Stir-Fry from Eat Yourself Skinny
15-Minute Lemon Garlic Butter Steak with Zucchini Noodles from Eat Well 101
Eggs are budget-friendly and versatile proteins that make a tasty meal any time of day, including a quick dinner. Eggs provide you with high-quality protein, healthy fats, vitamin D and nutrients that supports good vision and brain health. What’s more, omelettes, frittatas or shakshuka are a delicious vehicle for getting more greens, fresh herbs and spices in.
If you want something a little more nourishing than the standard fried eggs on toast, give these quick recipes a try.
Mushroom-Spinach Scrambled Eggs from Skinnytaste
15-Minute Arugula & Tomato Frittata from Walder Wellness
Easy Shakshuka from Cook at Home Mom
3. Baked Potatoes
I know carbs have gotten a bad reputation over the past few years. But in a pure form – unpeeled and not fried – the humble potato is still a great source of fiber, vitamin C, vitamin B6, potassium and antioxidants. Plus, there’s something about a baked potato that’s comforting and filling.
Now baked potatoes will take a long time to cook in the oven or wrapped in foil on the grill, but according to The Kitchn, you can have a single potato ready in 5 minutes when using a microwave. So check out their instructions and finish off your soft and steaming (sweet) potato with one of the following healthy toppings:
Loaded Baked Potato from A Couple Cooks
Fall Harvest Salad Stuffed Sweet Potatoes from Love & Lemons
BBQ Chicken Stuffed Sweet Potatoes from Downshiftology
4. Pita Pockets
If you have a toaster, pita pockets are a great choice for a quick dinner after a tiring day. Just pop your breads in the toaster for a few minutes, slice them open en fill them with the proteins and vegetables of your choice. You could heat up some store-bought falafel balls and hummus while grilling zucchini, or even simply fill your pita with canned tuna and cheese and have a simple salad on the side.
For more ideas on how to stuff your pita pockets, check out these quick recipes:
10-Minute Veggie Greek Pita Sandwiches from Fork in the Kitchen
Tuna and Chickpea Pita Sandwiches from Cooking Classy
Portobello Mushroom Gyros from Live Eat Learn
5. Quick Pasta
Isn’t a bowl of pasta the ultimate comfort food after a long day? Of course it’s always a good plan to have some good quality tomato sauce (low in salt and sugar) and wholegrain/lentil pasta in the pantry so you can whip up a meal in no time. But fresh pasta like tortellini or gnocchi also make a quick dinner for nights when you’re not really inspired to cook.
Take a look at 3 pasta recipes that can be made in twenty minutes or less, and mostly in one skillet too:
Pesto Chicken Tortellini and Veggies from Julie’s Album
Quick Gnocchi with Cabbage and Walnuts from Krumpli
Lemon Broccoli Pasta (One Pot, 20 Minutes) from The Food Charlatan
6. Mexican-inspired Meals
Want to enjoy Taco Tuesdays, even on days when you have little energy to cook? With a little planning and choosing the right ingredients, you can whip up a Mexican-inspired meal in 15 to 20 minutes. So spice up your weeknights with these load nachos, quesadillas and tacos!
Loaded Paleo Nachos from Paleo Running Mama
Apricot Salsa Quesadillas from Top with Cinnamon
Smoky Beans & Greens Tacos with Aji Verde from Pinch of Yum
Let’s make this list even longer: what’s you go-to quick dinner after a long and tiring day?
For more energy-saving tips and tricks, learn the secret tool to healthy eating with chronic illness, even more strategies to effortlessly make a meal when you are tired, plus 9 tips and tools for healthy cooking with chronic illness.
Thank you for including this post in your weekly round-up Claire! And for supporting other health bloggers by sharing their work. https://painpalsblog.wordpress.com/2018/01/15/7404/
Great post and information - I have shared a link on my regular feature Monday Magic – Inspiring Blogs for You! Claire (PainPalsBlog) x
Thank you soo much may God bless you in many ways ☺
I'm sorry, the blog post is a few years old so the giveaway has been closed for a while now. Perhaps you can use some of the tips above to create a care package: puzzles or magazine, (free) samples of body care products if your dad is still in the hospital, a gift card for iTunes? I also like the Gifts in A Tin from DIYMommy: https://thediymommy.com/a-gift-in-a-tin-christmas-baking-kit-gift/ (Scroll down for an overview) or an edible gift like the five bean soup IF he's medically allowed to eat that of course!: https://thehealthsessions.com/healthy-edible-gifts/ Hope your father feels better soon!
I was going to leave a comment for the give away... For my dad cuz he had his gull bladder taken out a fue hrs ago but congrats... Is there a cheep way i can make something for him?
Being careful with what you eat might be a good idea if you're feeling sick or have stomach aches. Luckily, there are still plenty of things listed you can do to entertain yourself :-) Feel better soon!
When I am I'll myum doesn't let me eat so some wouldn't work 😢🍕
Hi Darci, thank you for your message. Unfortunately the guide is not available yet as a hardcover and a paperback. If that changes in the near future, I will let you know. Warm regards, Jennifer
I would like to buy this book in hard cover or paperback instead of e-book for a friend
Super useful habits Nat! I also need to mentally unwind before bedtime or I'll be laying awake all night with thoughts racing through my mind.
A few things that help me ( I suffer from insomnia) is by not taking my phone to bed with me, i finish checking emails, social media etc in the living room and go to bed to switch off. Something else I do is turn on my essential oils diffuser an hour before bed so the room is scent with a relaxing mist of essential oils such as lavender, or vetiver which is like a sedative and incredible for helping me unwind. Another thing that work well when i can't switch my brain off is to write a quick list of everything i think i need to be dealing with now and highlighting only the ones that need to be taken care of the next day. Helps me not to feel so overwhelmed and in turn helps me fall asleep easier.
I'm touched by your kind words Darla, thank you. It's perfectly normal that you're resentful and feel sorry for yourself. You've had a lot to deal with. Not just experiencing horrible symptoms on a daily basis, but also having to adjust the plans you had for your future and your sense of identity. To me, positivity in the face of adversity is not about having an irrealistic rose-colored view of life. But I do believe that trying to find the good in little things each day can help make the bad ones more bearable. It's a challenge, but your insightful comment tells me that you're up for it ;-) Let me know if there's anything I can do to help. Good luck, be gentle with yourself and take care Darla!
Dr.Jen the Zen one, first off you rock! Since being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis 4 years ago and 2 years ago double pneumonia that left me with heart failure with 28% left undamaged it has seriously limited my mobility energy patience and unfortunately my positive attitude. 52 years on this planet, I lived a happy-go-lucky , look on the bright side, things will be better tomorrow, or crack a silly joke and get over it type of life. Now for the first time in my life I find myself having to work at being positive. Anger and resentment and even the dreaded " poor little me" mindset is trying to set up permanent residence. And tonight I find your blog and it gives me hope I just want to say "Thank you" Darla